For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,

   for my hope is from him.

He only is my rock and my salvation,

   my fortress, I shall not be shaken.

Psalm 62: 5, 6

David knew what opposition and trouble looked like. He faced plenty of it during his days. Some of it was the result of his own poor decisions and some was caused by his overtly sinful behaviors. Much of it was born out of the jealous or otherwise evil intent of others. That is the way that life in this world tends to go for many people. We face into things that put us on trial, that cause us trouble, and that challenge our ability to continue on, and we are the cause of some of these situations, and we are the victims of others. Yet, through all of these times of challenge and trial, David’s words of hope and encouragement remain true and valid. Today’s shelter and tomorrow’s hope are found in the Lord and in Him alone.

We may plan and scheme regarding the ways that we will take control of life and get things going in the right direction, but I have found that I frequently don’t even begin to understand the compass heading for that positive travel. The view from my swirling eyes is obscured by a cloud of doubt and my mind is addled by the vertigo that stress and pain have caused to settle into its processing center. In these times I have a real need for the perspective of another, and I also benefit from wisdom that possesses perspective that is greater than any that I can summon up in my current state of being. These are times when the Lord, His Word, and the fellowship of His body are of vital importance to me just as they were to David thousands of years ago.

Yet, knowing this ancient and on-going truth is not quite enough, for it is very hard to wait on the Lord’s answers when the pressures of life are building up to the point of crushing body, mind, and spirit. Still, God asks us to wait on Him. These challenging times are ones in which our trust in God’s provision is tested. These are moments in life when we are dwelling in the balance point between taking actions that might be rash, hasty, or foolish and continuing to pray and wait on God’s wisdom and provision. These are usually times when it is wise to pray earnestly and to listen for the Lord’s answer in submission to His grace, love, and mercy with endurance that might need to exceed anything that we have experienced previously. In these days of prayer and silent listening we can also devote ourselves to study and meditation upon God’s Word with its message of hope, provision, and the care of the eternal shepherd, and finally, we should seek out the supportive prayer and the mature wisdom of others who dwell within the fellowship of faith in Christ. Trials and troubles will come, but like David, we can say,

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,

   for my hope is from him.”

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Look, I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!

Daniel 3: 25

 

This is the moment of revelation when the truth of God’s might, protection, and total involvement with His people became starkly apparent to King Nebuchadnezzar. He sees the three young men that he had ordered to be tied up in ropes of power and oppression and then thrown into the furnace of utter despair and destruction, and their survival and their freedom was now visible to him. He also sees that where the king had ordered three men to be thrown into his fire of destruction and death, there were now four men walking about freely in its inferno. For they are not alone, and it was God who had revealed Himself standing there with the three men.

 

We all encounter fires and times when the heat gets awfully intense; sometimes the flames get stoked to the point where the heat reaches an intensity so great that it feels like we will be totally consumed by it. The walls of the furnace seem to close in on us and form a trap where there is no way out and that causes the heat to become magnified in its intensity. It gets hard to hold onto hope, and the smoke of fear and concern clouds vision. In these times it is completely natural for anxiety to become a rope that keeps getting pulled tighter until breathing becomes a challenge. Yet, Christ is always in the midst of the fire, the brightest flame in it all aspects of life is the glory of the Lord, and the wind of His Spirit will clear the smoke from our eyes. Then, His hands of love reach out to untie the ropes that are binding us.

 

Facing a fire is frightening, but being tossed into one is terror defined; yet, when we open our eyes and look around with a heart that is not so much seeking a way out as one that is open to the words of wisdom and peace that the Lord wants us to hear, freedom can be found. God wants us to see that He is there with us in all of these times. Christ has walked through every torturous event and condition that we could ever face, and He walks with us through all of ours. God has provided us with resources to call upon in these desperate days. His Word is the absolute source of wisdom, comfort, and guidance in the midst of the fire and during those days that follow when we are recovering from the damage that the flames may have caused to our bodies and minds. We can also turn to the fellowship of believers and lean into its collective strength, counsel, and encouragement, and the Spirit of Christ goes with us for every step of these journeys of faith. In Christ, we are free in the midst of the trial, we are given protection during its hard times, and we are assured that the Lord’s victory over sin and death is also ours to claim and to experience.

 

Thus says the LORD:

Cursed is the man who trusts in man

and makes flesh his strength,

whose heart turns away from the LORD.

 

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,

whose trust is the LORD.

Jeremiah 17: 5, 7

 

The prophet says it all with a few very direct words. Where we place our trust directly relates to the results that will come our way. The trust that is under consideration is, in itself, a big issue. It is foundational to the conduct of the day, for the way that we handle almost everything in the course of life is impacted and effected by the nature of the foundation that we stand upon when making decisions, both small and great. When we trust in ourselves and in the wisdom of other people as our primary means of discerning what is right, wise, and just, we will be disappointed and even abandoned at some point in the process. People are fickle and self-interested and are almost always guaranteed to fail to live up to the highest of expectations when we stand on our own without the guidance and the strengthening that God provides to us.

 

Jeremiah goes on in this passage to describe the person who places his trust in the ways of people as being isolated and even as being starved for the things that sustain life and bring about flourishing during it. This person is like a plant that is standing alone in the desolation and bareness of the desert. There is little for his soul to feed upon, and there is no sustaining support and encouragement to be found in these places. In contrast, the person whose “trust is the LORD” is compared with a tree that has been planted by water. In other words, one that is close to, focused upon, and remains connected with this unceasing and completely trustworthy source of nourishment, strength, and guidance in the ways of truth and righteousness. Although a tree does not make the choice to be planted close to the stream, we are different from these analogous plants in the text. We do have the option and the opportunity to make these choices for ourselves.

 

We can turn toward the ways and the thinking of this world for our guidance in various matters. We can even think that it works for us to seek out God’s Word and His path for some things, those that we deem to be religious in nature, and at the same time turn to the more comfortable understandings of this world for the rest. Yet, according to the thoughts of the Prophet, which experience has demonstrated to me to be correct, neither of these approaches to life will work for very long. We will always end up thirsty for truth, starved of wisdom’s nutrients, and isolated from the fellowship of faith where we can find real and lasting encouragement and strength. So, we can also choose the path wherein we place our trust in the Lord alone and turn toward Him absolutely and totally. In so doing, we turn to God’s Word as our primary and final authority for everything, all other ideas and thinking is tested against Scripture, we pray and listen to the Lord’s responses to our prayer as a regular aspect of each day, we engage in the fellowship of other followers of Christ and we seek out the counsel of these like-spirited people, and we recognize the fact that we are living as imperfect beings under the gracious and loving care of the Lord. When we choose this last approach to life, the roots of our hearts, minds, and spirits are planted in the singular source of nurture that will never fail to provide what is necessary for the day at hand.